Sorrento residents file recall petition on councilman

Sorrento, the Ascension Parish town beset in the past few weeks by controversy over the future of its police department, now faces another issue: an effort to recall one of its five council members.

Two residents, Doris D. Lee and Ivan Bernuchaux Jr., filed a recall petition Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s Office to recall Sorrento Town Council member Randy Anny.

Lee is acting as chairman of the recall effort and Bernuchaux as co-chair. Their recall effort comes after weeks of wrangling among council members over how law enforcement will be provided in Sorrento.

Sorrento’s insurance coverage for its police department was canceled this week, with no new policy to take its place. At its meeting on Tuesday, the council accepted an offer by Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley to provide protection to Sorrento at no cost through Dec. 31.

Police Chief Earl Theriot said he would work with Assistant Police Chief Ricky Smith to revamp police department policies and procedures in the hopes of insurance coverage being reinstated in the new year.

During the debates over the issue, Anny has frequently crossed swords with Sorrento Mayor Mike Lambert.

“It boils down from him (Anny) stirring everything up,” Bernuchaux said of the recall petition. “Our mayor, he doesn’t have a chance in hell to get things going forward. We’re not trying to hurt nobody, we’re just trying to move forward.”

Bernuchaux, who ran unsuccessfully for a Sorrento Town Council seat this year, questioned why Anny was “on the police department’s side” in its dispute with the mayor, saying he should be tending to council business.

Anny, who is in his third term as councilman, said, “I’m fighting to keep the police department. I wanted to keep it there ... If you have to pay the sheriff (to provide law enforcement in the future) his cost will be much higher.”

Anny, who lost a close mayoral election to the previous mayor, Wilson Longanecker Jr., said he’s had many people in Sorrento express their support for him. Anny served as mayor pro tem for about seven months in 2012, when Longanecker was out on medical leave following surgery.

Lee, chairman of the recall effort, said that she’s lived in Sorrento for more than 50 years. Her late husband was born in Sorrento, as were the couple’s seven children, Lee said. From the time she moved here, she’s heard disparaging remarks about Sorrento from neighboring communities, she said.

“I always wanted Sorrento to change and be something to be proud of,” Lee said.

“The five or six meetings I’ve been to, since Mayor Lambert took over, no matter what, everything (said by Anny) is ‘I this’ or ‘My that’ and arguments. They can’t get anything accomplished,” Lee said.

“I’m 72 years old. I didn’t want to get into this, but I figured, ‘Why not me,’” Lee said. “It’s about Sorrento.”

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the signatures of one-third of the registered voters in the town of Sorrento are needed by May 19, 2014, which is 180 business days from Wednesday, for the petition to move forward.

The Ascension Parish Registrar’s Office said there are 1,044 registered voters in Sorrento, meaning 348 signatures are required.

Bernuchaux said that he and Lee are forming a committee to begin going door to door to gather signatures for the recall petition.

“We feel like we can pull this off. We’re going to be hitting it hard,” Bernuchaux said.